Women & Iron Age Religions

Iron_Age_TextsIn the early 1800s, Christian Thomsen devised a three-age system to describe ancient societies’ stages of progress — the last of these ages was the iron age. Put simply, the times of these eras differed from civilization to civilization depending on the development of use of metals.  The approximate dates range as follows:

  • Stone Age:  9300 – 3300 BCE
  • Bronze Age:  3300 – 1200 BCE
  • Iron Age:  1200 – 200 BCE

The system is too simple but commonly used. I first read about the classification method after hearing Atheists criticize Christianity for being based on an “Iron Age religion”. When I read a bit, I found that many religions had Iron Age origins. The diagram above shows Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu and Chinese scriptures from the Iron Age.

The Iron Age treatment of women, across cultures, was abominable. See this Religious Tolerance site for some idea of how the Jewish Bible discusses women.  Christian apologists often defend or rationalize the Bible saying that it is misunderstood and that the Bible shows excellent treatment of women. Likewise, Muslim apologists justy their treatment of women.

Well today, I read this fun article where an Indian defends the treatment of women in the Hindu Stone Age scripture called the Mahabharata.  Wow, they even defend the Mahabharata.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Mahabharata is a fantastic epic and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to explore a radically different Iron Age spirituality.  But like other Iron Age religions, the Mahabharata illustrates clearly the male domination at those times. But I confess that as for the women issues, the culture classification issues and more, I am not qualified to discuss them. But one thing seems certain to me, there are always folks ready to protect the integrity of their sanctified ancient cultures. Whether there is truth there or not, I suspect the reflex to protect comes from the exact same place.




Filed under Philosophy & Religion

8 responses to “Women & Iron Age Religions

  1. Sabio, I really like this post. Towards the last two years of my faith as a Evangelical Christian, I began to read scriptures from the Talmud and Koran. I couldn’t believe the racism and misogyny. However, reading those books brought me back to questions I had about the Bible and women, concerns I carried since Bible School about two decades prior. All my doubts were explained away by professors, preachers and other Christian men and women as my lack of submission to God. I wasn’t “trusting” God. I had a rebellious (Jezebel) spirit. Female friends and wives and daughters of Church leadership told me that I needed to allow people to speak into my life and quit “resisting” because God loved me.

    I was glad to see the one web site you mentioned refer to the whole Hagar and Abraham situation as rape. I didn’t even come to that realization until this year. The first person I came out as an atheist to was an old Messianic Jewish friend just this summer. I used that very example when she began to question my moral compass. So, I attacked hers, the Bible. God does nothing to Abraham for lying to kings, raping his wife’s slave and turning his back on her and their son with absolutely nothing while he was a rich man. In fact, it seems that we repeatedly see the very people Abraham wronged get jilted/punished for his wrong doing while he continued to receive God’s blessings. However, God is so pissed with the first woman in the Bible for wanting to know more (Eve) that he severely punishes her and Adam. A punishment that Christians still suffer for everyone is born into sin due to her actions. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit she created a sinful environment, now everyone suffers the fallen state of the world that she created. Gee, doesn’t sound like “free will” to me.

    Sorry I went long, I just want you to know I appreciated your article, as well as the references you made in it.

  2. @ CHope,
    Your long comments are fantastic.
    I think that deep familiarity with other religions can sometimes wake up believers to the silliness of their own religion in ways that in-house arguing can’t.
    Thanx for adding to the story!

  3. rautakyy

    The “fun article” would be simply hilarious, if it was not a real attempt to justify poor treatment of women in religious value base.

    The idea that polygamy is for producing more children is simply ridiculous. One woman can only have so many children regardless, if her husband has just one or several other wives. It just does not add up. What makes it even more ridiculous is the thought, that men are more prone to die because of war. Women were liable to die in childbirth regardless, if it was wartime or not, but as we do know wars do not only threaten the lives of men but women just as well (unless we are talking about enemy virgins destined to become slaves of the victor).

    It is so typical to these men who claim, that women had it better than the texts clearly tell, to bring up as examples some princess, as if any of those were in any way representative of the treatment of their gender. Of course one can make a case, that princesses were treated better than the common man, but that does not tell us anything of the treatment of women in general in any iron age culture.

    It is a bit as schitsophrenic, like the neo-nazies claiming that the holocaust never happened, but if they could have their way they would surely execute it, because it was completely justified.

  4. Come on,rautakyy — it certainly was a fun article. You can’t judge those blokes in the old days — it was what everyone did. The author is just trying to understand his people. We know that you wish polygamy still thrived. And surely all women would prefer living in a harem where they are protected from nightly conjugal duties. And back then, people were more in touch with nature — herbs protected them from today’s dangers of childbirth.

    Rautakyy, none of the readers here will agree with your rant. We all fantasize about the joy-filled days of serfdom!

    [Sorry, mate. I couldn’t help myself. Hope I didn’t even get you more riled. I’ve been watching a bit too much of Tim Minchin recently. Habitual serious indignation sometimes just needs a break, don’t ya think?]

  5. rautakyy

    @Sabio, yes I know. I get riled up, when people try to justify horrible injusticies. Sorry. That is, I am not really sorry about getting upset about it, but I am a bit sorry when I burst out about in your fine blog. Especially since I should know, you are trying to engage people in a civil manner so that they themselves would understand the folly of such immorality, rather than that an angry atheist such as myself tells them, when the result of that will be, that such people shall only shut down their recievers.

    Keep up the good work.

    By the way I like Tim Minchin too. 😉 I do so relate to his beat poem Storm.

  6. @ rautakyy,
    Your thing, dude, is that you come on my blog, get indignant and then lecture me (us) like you are talking to a room full of believers. I like your perspective, but the sermons are always a bit intense. So I was just trying to add humor to your Finnish, dry, seriousness — or is that just you?

  7. rautakyy

    @Sabio, I guess I can hide here behind my nationality and cultural heritage. A bit at least… 😉 Being me, I can not help. But whith your good advice, I may grow to be a better user of the internet.

  8. LOL — you take me well, rautakyy

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